The Book of Sirach presents us with a very patriarchal view of the family. Many of our families today are not so. Sometimes a father is not even present or maybe he is, but it is the mother who is the central figure in the family. St. Paul seems to be a little more realistic when he presents the Christian community as a “family” that has its conflicts but is bound together by love, but he also falls into the patriarchal cultural norm of his time and speaks of wives being subordinate to their husbands. The Gospel reminds us that even Joseph and Mary had difficult times with their pre-teen. Their concern when they could not find him grew into desperation as time went on and then burst into a moment of anger and then relief. Jesus gave a typical response of a boy his age, who still needed his parents’ guidance although he seemed to be sure of what he was talking about.
All of the above tell us that families are messy. There is no one model that fits all and forever. Family is a dynamic of interchanges of communication, of understanding and acceptance, an on-going process held together by love. That is why we might look at our Church as family. We are bound together in love, but we often disagree. We all learn from each other and little by little we learn to respect each other and recognize that it is God’s Spirit that has brought us together. The process is messy, and we do not always get it right at first, but we keep working at it because somehow this community gives meaning to our existence.
Today then is also the feast of our family, the Church: a pilgrim Church where we are all on the way together.
By Fr. Joseph Jablonski, MSC